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Rally chief satisfied with Safari preparations, anticipates a major event

By Lynette Matheka
Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta Flags off the WRC Safari Rally at Kasarani Stadium. Photo/PD/ALEX NJUE
In summary
    • Sponsorship- Government (449million), KCB  (50 million)
    • Safari Rally lost WRC status in 2002
    • WRC Safari was to inject in excess of Sh600 million directly into the Kenyan economy.
    • Over Sh60 billion expected in indirect advertising through global television
    • Kenya to benefit from approximately 40% of the 4million global spectators 
    • Approximately cumulative global audience of 775 million global TV audiences
    • Over 9,150 broadcast hours in 150 countries. 

Preparations for the return of Kenya’s Safari Rally to the global stage, are in top gear despite the event being postponed to next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Kenya Motorsports Federation (KMSF) president Phineas Kimathi who is also the chair of the  steering committee to oversee the successful return of the Safari Rally to the World Rally Commission (WRC) calendar, and also sits at the global body, FIA’s commission as the Africa and Middle East representative says that preparation are 70 per cent complete.

“It was disappointing that after waiting for 18 years to return to the WRC calendar, Covid -19 struck and the wait has been extended for another year.

However, the safety of crews and everyone who would have been involved in the global event was paramount so we accepted the outcome.

Despite the postponement, the secretariat decided to continue with preparations as if the event was to happen this year,” said Kimathi in an interview.

He continued, “The service park, which is the nerve centre of the event, is under construction in Naivasha.

Next week some of us will be down in Naivasha to inspect the progress. Only the roads on the route will be done when the event nears, after rescheduling.

Being dirt roads, they can easily be destroyed by the end of year rains so they will need attention just before the event.”

Kenya was set to host the event towards the end of this month. While FIA is yet to release a new calendar for their events, Kimathi assures that minimal changes are likely to be effected and Kenya is assured of hosting their leg in 2021.

“Being part of the commission deliberating the safe return of the series, Kenya’s interests are taken care of.

However, there are other 14 host countries that have to be taken into account and the WRC Promoter too. That means the event may not be held in July as it was to be this year,” he added.

The federation head says that the postponement will have minimal financial implication.

The only difference will be the cost of running the secretariat for the time Kenya will be waiting to host the Safari. Being a government-run project, the ministry is set facilitate the extra cost.

This year was to witness the return of the classic rallies in Kenya and New Zealand, as well as a new-look event in Japan.

According to WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla they wanted to further globalise the WRC by holding more events outside Europe.

“It is the first time the WRC has included six continents, Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia, in its 48-year history.

Japan’s comeback, mainstream Asia’s first appearance for 10 years, and the return of Kenya’s Safari Rally, one of motorsport’s legendary contests, provide a presence in the world’s largest two continents by size for the first time in more than two decades,” said Ciesla in a previous interview.